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Comerford & Keating

Book cover Heart of TeachingYesterday, former Iceberg Publishing author John Fioravanti released the 2014 edition of his 2007 award-winning personal reflection on the ‘heart of teaching’. It was a big day for his new company — there’s nothing quite like that first title release — and we couldn’t be more excited for entire Fiora Books team.

John taught Kenneth at St. David Catholic Secondary School when he entered Grade 10 shortly after we moved from Alberta to our current home in Ontario. They shared a love of history, and science fiction, and John was exceptional at preparing his students for the kind of assignments they would face in university if they chose that route. He was also one of the special teachers who helped make the transition to a new province and a new high school smoother than it might otherwise have been. His informal lunch club was particularly popular, but I shouldn’t say more – you can read about it in his book!

Teachers can have a profound impact on their students – positive and negative. I’ve never completely gotten over the delight one particular high school French teacher took in berating me for not “using my French mouth” when I tried to speak that language in class. The school I’d attended from Kindergarten through Grade 6 didn’t offer French — so by the time I reached high school I was years behind my classmates, and never did really catch up. But for the most part, I was incredibly fortunate.

Two girls in school uniforms
Me and ‘Hayes’ in the early 70s. Oh the stories we could tell…

Take junior high, for instance. I’d moved to a new school in Grade 7 – St. Pius X Catholic Girls School – and still remember feeling totally lost as I stood in the doorway my first day. Fortunately, that didn’t last long because Ann Marie Hayes saw me standing there and rescued me… and more than 40 years later, she’s still the best friend I could ever ask for.

Then there was our homeroom teacher for that year – Miss Comerford (Mary). A relatively new teacher, she was 1972-stylish, enthusiastic, and we loved her. In Grade 8, there was Mrs. Keating (Joan). She was slightly more experienced, 1972-classy, equally enthusiastic, and we loved her too.

During those two years these special women challenged and guided us, and instilled in us a sense of responsibility, effectively preparing us to be in the top classes at high school without us realizing they were doing it. They wanted all of us to realize our potential and they did everything they could to make sure we would do well. They cared about us and believed in us. And even if we may not have been able to articulate it at the time… we knew it and we responded. We wanted them to be proud.

About a year and a half ago many of that class had the chance to reconnect with both Miss Comerford and Mrs. Keating – or Mary and Joan as we call them now. A First Communion picture posted on Facebook by one of the members of that original class – the incomparable and immensely talented Noreen Greene-Fraize – led to a class reunion that brought people home from various parts of Canada and the US. I think our teachers were a little surprised to be invited, but of course they had to be. They’d been instrumental in who we’d all become, and to say we remembered them with fondness is an understatement.

I suspect that as many of us think back on our school years, we can identify at least one or two teachers who had a profound impact on our growth. It’s wonderful here at Iceberg to see that one such important individual in Kenneth’s past is now on an exciting new path, and we’re delighted to have been a small part of his journey.

All the best to John Fioravanti as he and Anne embark on the next chapter of Fiora Books.